I think Chris and Pernilla would agree with me - Sweden is the coolest.
I know that this seems like a strange comment for me to be making considering my current location. But it's true.
Once a week I have a silly little economics lesson with Tatyana Yurievna (she calls it "Ecological Problems in a Transitional Economy" or something along those lines). Anyway, this week we talked about the "Swedish model" - meaning the social democracy that has been working so well for the past 70-something years. Swedish citizens have it great. From there, we somehow got on the topic of Ikea. I love Ikea. It's just so dang efficient and (possibly more importantly) reasonably priced. Little did I know there is actually an IKEA in IRKUTSK!!! Add that to the list of things that make Irkutsk the "thriving metropolis" that it is. I haven't made it out there yet (since I don't really need anything, it would just be another temptation) but a few of my friends have. While it's not quite as humongous as the Frisco or Houston stores, it's still got all the flat-packed goodness of a real Ikea. And if they don't have what you want, you can order anything that Ikea makes from their catalogue (for a small addition cost, of course). Oh, Ikea - how I love thee.
I love it when I discover how small the world is. I've been feeling dreadfully homesick for the past two weeks, and the only relief (besides actually going home) is when I find something that reminds me that no matter how far away I get (and I'm about as far away as is possible right now), I'm not really all that far away at all.